Interstitial Cystitis: The Bladder Condition That Mimics Vulva Pain

“Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition causing bladder pressure, bladder pain & sometimes pelvic pain. The pain ranges from mild discomfort to severe pain. Our bladder is a hollow, muscular organ that stores urine. The bladder expands until it’s full & then signals our brain that it’s time to urinate, communicating through the pelvic nerves. This creates the urge to urinate for most people” [1]

The Low-Down on Interstitial Cystitis

Our urinary system comprises the bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra. As a Pain Doctor will tell you: if you have interstitial cystitis, the walls of your bladder become inflamed and irritated.
In fact, with this condition, these signals become mixed up, and as a result, sufferers have to urinate more frequently, and pass smaller amounts of urine than those who don’t have it. Generally speaking, women are more inclined to have this condition, and in many cases, their quality of life can be badly affected [1]. To that end, it is crucial to receive an accurate medical diagnosis from an experienced Pain Specialist, who will draw up a Personalised Treatment Plan that you can get started on right from the get-go.

So What Are the Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis?

Symptoms are different for each person. Moreover, sufferers may see their symptoms alter as time goes on – sporadically flaring up when responding to common triggers, including: having sex, exercising, feeling stressed, sitting down for extended periods of time, and menstruation [1]. You should however, contact a Pain Doctor, if you experience any of the following:

• Pelvic pain, or pain between the vagina and anus (in women)
• Pain in-between the scrotum and anus (in men)
• Long-standing pelvic pain
• An urgent, unrelenting urge to urinate
• Frequent urination (usually in small amounts,) throughout the day and night. Note: some sufferers can urinate as much as 60 times per day. – Clearly, this is very serious, and you should not not delay booking an appointment with a Pain Doctor right away
• Relief after passing urine, and discomfort or pain whilst the bladder fills
• Painful sex [1]

What Causes Interstitial Cystitis?

The precise cause of this condition is not yet understood, however: “it’s likely that many factors contribute. For instance, people with interstitial cystitis may also have a defect in the protective lining (epithelium) of the bladder. A leak in the epithelium may allow toxic substances in urine to irritate your bladder wall” [1].


[1]. Mayo Clinic (2023). “Interstitial cystitis.”